HELSINKI—The European Chemicals Agency is finalizing the draft of a landmark restriction proposal to ban products which have "intentionally added" microplastics from being placed on the market in the European Union and the European Economic Area.
The proposal will be submitted to the European Commission in the coming months and largely based on the opinions of two ECHA committees—the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and the Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC).
Among the materials targeted by the proposal are granular infill materials from end-of-life tires and other synthetic elastomers, which have been classified as "intentionally-added microplastics."
SEAC completed its review of the proposal on Dec. 9, suggesting EU policy makers should either ban on rubber infill or adopt a mandatory requirement for risk-management measures in sports fields.
According to the ECHA, about 42,000 metric tons of "intentionally added microplastics" are released annually in the EU/EEA. The ECHA believes that 16,000 tons a year are released from infill material used in artificial turf fields.
SEAC's recent opinion follows an earlier review by the RAC in June, which recommended a complete EU ban on all "microplastics" infills following a six-year transition period.
At the time, the RAC's opinion was criticized by industry players, including the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers' Association and the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) for its potential impact on the tire recycling and synthetic turf segments.
In a Dec. 9 statement to ERJ, the ESTC welcomed SEAC's opinion, saying its efforts had contributed to the options being considered
"We believe the final report refers to the new guidance on infill containment detailed in the recently published European Standards Committee report—that ESTC were instrumental in progressing—and the EcoLoop report that ESTC commissioned showing the effectiveness of these measures," said technical director Alastair Cox.
This is "rewarding and positive" from ESTC's perspective, he said.
"It is clear that the case for derogation will have to be continued to be made in 2021 as the member states decide on which option is the most appropriate," Cox added.
The ECHA is aiming to send its restriction proposal, along with the opinions of both committees, to the European Commission in the first quarter of 2021, the agency said in a Dec. 9 online press conference.
In addition to addressing the rubber infill issue, the ECHA proposal will recommend a complete ban on introducing products that contain microplastics including cosmetics, cleaning and laundry products, fertilizers, plant protection products and seed coatings.
The microplastics restrictions will then be proposed as part of EU lawmakers' plastics strategy bill, under REACH regulations by the European Commission, voted on by EU member states and scrutinized by the EC and the European Parliament.